North Carolina native Elizabeth Karmel, a.k.a. Grill Girl, is a nationally respected authority on grilling, barbecue and Southern food. She launched CarolinaCueToGo.com, an Online Barbecue Shack, with her childhood friend, David Lineweaver on November 1, 2014. Lineweaver and Karmel bonded over being 2 x-pat North Carolinians in New York craving authentic North Carolina barbecue and the company was born.
CarolinaCueToGo.com ships hickory-wood smoked whole-hog barbecue seasoned with Karmel’s signature North Carolina-style Vinegar Sauce nationwide.
"Our Carolina Cue whole hog barbecue is made with love from pigs that come from a small hog farm from a small town in North Carolina. They are smoked traditionally in small batches using hickory wood, which is indigenous to the area," says Karmel. "The pigs cook slowly for 10 hours until the meat is meltingly tender. It is then removed from the pit, hand pulled, chopped and seasoned with while still hot."
Elizabeth Karmel’s signature western-style red vinegar sauce is the essence of North Carolina! It seasons both the Carolina ‘Cue and the Carolina Slaw which is why we call it “Carolina Cue Sauce.” It is made with the finest apple-cider vinegar, a touch of all-natural ketchup and no water to cut it. It’s more expensive that way, but that is the only way that we would make it ourselves, so that is the only way that we will sell it. The sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy with three types of peppers and molasses-rich dark brown sugar, so you might find your self using it on everything!Elizabeth Karmel’s signature western-style red vinegar sauce is the essence of North Carolina! It seasons both the Carolina ‘Cue and the Carolina Slaw which is why we call it “Carolina Cue Sauce.” It is made with the finest apple-cider vinegar, a touch of all-natural ketchup and no water to cut it. It’s more expensive that way, but that is the only way that we would make it ourselves, so that is the only way that we will sell it. The sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy with three types of peppers and molasses-rich dark brown sugar, so you might find your self using it on everything!
Carolina Cue brings a regional treasure to your table no matter where you live. The combination of eastern-style whole hog barbecue and the rich and tangy “red” western-style sauce is a modern day mash-up that we think brings you the best of what the tarheel state has to offer. We suggest re-heating your thawed barbecue covered in the oven. This ‘cue was seasoned with time and wood smoke and needs to be treated gently for best results.Elizabeth Karmel was the founding Executive Chef of the award-winning Hill Country Barbecue Market in NYC, Brooklyn and Washington, DC, and NYC and Brooklyn’s Hill Country Chicken. She developed the award-winning menu and flavor profiles from the meats to the sides and desserts for both restaurant concepts.
On July 4, 2012, The New York Times awarded Hill Country Barbecue Market NYC 2 stars (the first barbecue restaurant in the city to ever garner 2 stars!), and a glowing review that read like a love letter to barbecue and the Hill Country concept.
In addition to being a chef, she is a food writer, culinary consultant and entrepreneur. She writes a bi-monthly column for the Associated Press called The American Table and is the author of three acclaimed cookbooks. She designs an innovative line of outdoor cooking and kitchen tools, and recently introduced Elizabeth’s Everyday Essentials line of French porcelain by Revol.
As a sought after media personality, Karmel writes for, and is frequently featured in an array of national magazines from Bon Appetit to Better Homes & Gardens, and was named one of the top 100 chefs by Saveur magazine.
She appears regularly on all three network morning shows and is a guest judge on Chopped and Iron Chef. She has appeared on a number of Food Network shows and hosted her own special on The Cooking Channel.
Hill Country Barbecue Market
As a North Carolina native, I fell in love with barbecue, not just the food itself, but the culture that surrounds barbecue as well. It melts demographics; race, gender, education etc.
If you love barbecue, that’s reason enough to bond, become friends and break bread! It’s no wonder that politicians have always chosen barbecue to bring their constituents together. That is the thing that I love most about barbecue. Because Hill Country Barbecue Market celebrates the food and music of the hill country of Central Texas, the restaurant feels more like a destination and a family reunion than a traditional restaurant. And, I have tried to honor this feeling in all of the recipes that I created as the Executive Chef of the Hill Country Barbecue Market.
When I created the menu for Hill Country in 2006, I wanted to make sure that every dish was craveable and evergreen, meaning that it would stand the test of time. In 2016, after spending ten years creating and establishing Hill Country Barbecue Market and Hill Country Chicken, I decided to leave the restaurants to pursue new opportunities. I had done everything that an executive chef and branding visionary needed to do to establish a solid brand. And, my recipes and menu are being served to this day so that customers who are craving the food that they ate when Hill Country opened in 2007 can have the same experience today in 2018.
MUSINGS ON HILL COUNTRy
I have a very simple food philosophy, I want my food to feel like someone you love has just given you a hug when you take a bite of it. I get no bigger pleasure than cooking for people—whether it’s customers or my friends and relatives—I want everyone who steps into a Hill Country restaurant to leave feeling like family! Since opening the doors in NYC nearly 11 years ago and in DC six years ago, my family has grown and I welcome everyone who loves barbecue—and all the fixings! With open arms!
The signature Texas-style barbecue is inspired by the grand old meat-markets-turned-barbecue-joints found throughout Central Texas with their distinctive style of pit-smoked, dry-rubbed beef. We are cooking our meat in the style that Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, has perfected. If you’ve been to Kreuz and love it, you’ll feel right at home when you walk through the doors of Hill Country. It’s all about the meat!
The restaurant uses the best quality meat you can buy, a simple rub (kosher salt, butcher grind black pepper and enough cayenne pepper to turn the rub a light pink) and the distinctive Texas-grown Post Oak wood that we truck in from its native land. The wood smoke and the simple rub combine to flavor the meat “just right” with a sweet smoky quality that enhances the “beefiness” of the beef and the richness of the pork. I love the simplicity of Texas barbecue.
Interestingly enough, Texas barbecue is very similar to my native North Carolina barbecue in that it is lightly seasoned and flavored by time and wood smoke—Hickory in Western North Carolina, Post Oak in Central Texas. Pork is indigenous to North Carolina and Beef is indigenous to Texas and thus the difference in the types of meat.
And I feel strongly that all of the sides and desserts have to be as good as the meat. In fact, a lot of people come to the restaurant and make a meal of the sides. I always say, “Come for the meats and stay for the sides…and dessert!”
One of my “can’t stop eating it” dishes is an off-the menu item that we will make for anyone and the regulars know what to ask for. It’s my own version of ChiliMac. This is not anything that I grew up with! When we first opened Hill Country Barbecue Market in NYC, the counter employees took a scoop of rich and gooey Longhorn Cheddar Mac & Cheese and topped it with a heaping spoonful of EAK’s Bowl of Red (Chili) (No Beans about it! Texas style!). At first, I was hesitant to dig in, but once I did, I realized that it was the perfect pairing of cheese and meat; the melted cheeses both cooling down and accentuating the heat of the spice in a soul-satisfying combination that I always reach for during a long hectic day—it’s a must have! Put it on your list!
The sweets are all made from scratch and highlight Southern home-style desserts. It’s Southern with a twist—homemade banana pudding with chunks of banana and Nilla Vanilla Wafers, the Original PB&J cupcake with a dollop of grape jelly baked into the center and a light and fluffy peanut butter icing—it’s like the quintessential lunchbox favorite made into a dessert fantasy! My cupcake put us on the map as much as the barbecue.
Hill Country Chicken
A Tower of Pie Cups as seen in New York Magazine
My Favorite Hill Country Chicken Memory
September 20, 2010 was a red-letter day in my career!
I had worked for two years to create a home-made fried chicken and pie restaurant in New York City. After several delays, we finally opened on September 20. As we all scurried around, cooking, baking and frying, I watched as person after person started a line at our front door, waiting for us to OPEN. Finally, the clock struck 12 and it was time to open the doors!
Hundreds of people started walking in! The line had gone all around the block. I couldn’t help myself, I started clapping and the whole Hill Country Chicken crew started clapping. We spontaneously began applauding the customers and our efforts. We were so excited to be open and feeding folks in New York who were craving Fried Chicken, Biscuits and Homemade Pie.
I created a whole Pie program that centered around "Pie Cups." Pie Cups are mini pies that are portable and fit in your hand like a cupcake. I created these individual pies because my theory was that cupcakes were insanely popular because they weren't a commitment to an entire slice of cake, just a cupcake. Similarly, I didn't think many people would commit to an entire slice of pie, so I made a mini pie. It was my goal, to make Pie the New Cupcake! My Pie Cups started a Pie revolution in New York City and beyond.
Besides Pie, Hill Country served two types of Southern Fried Chicken. Made with love and brined with a buttermilk brine before battering and frying--just like I would do at home. At the time, this made Hill Country Chicken very unique. It was the first independent fast-casual fried chicken restaurant in New York and has been the inspiration for many more chef-driven independent fried chicken concepts.